Lonely Planet Writer

A Korean grandpa is using Instagram to send drawings to his family around the world

A Korean Grandfather has become a social media star after teaching himself to use Instagram and starting an art project that sees him creating beautiful illustrations that are dedicated to his grandchildren living abroad.

After he retired seven years ago, 75-year-old Chan Jae Lee, who now lives in Brazil, decided to dedicate his days to taking care of his two young grandchildren, driving them to school every morning and relishing the opportunity to spend some quality time with them. “Three years later however, they moved back to Korea with my daughter and all of a sudden I had nothing to do anymore and I missed them terribly,” Chan Jae told Lonely Planet Travel News. It was then that his son Ji, a designer who lives in New York, suggested that Chan Jae take up drawing again and share some of his work on Instagram.

Having never used email, Instagram, or even Google, the beginning of the new task was a challenge for Chan Jae. “At first I hated the idea! I didn’t know what to draw. Then in 2015, a new grandchild, Astro was born and my wife and I went to New York to meet him. While we were there, Ji had the idea that I could draw pictures for my three grandchildren. I liked the idea and found a new purpose to draw and I learned how to use Instagram and stay in touch with my grandkids around the world,” Chan Jae said. The resulting project is, “Drawings For My Grandchildren”, an Instagram account that is updated every day with a new piece of work.

In the three years since it began, Chan Jae has done over 3000 pictures, but only shares his favourite on the Instagram account, which features approximately 600 images. Ji created a video telling the story behind the project, sharing it on Facebook in an effort to get some followers for his father. “The reaction was amazing. I couldn’t have imagined it in my wildest dreams. The video has been seen over five million times. What started as a small family project went viral,” Chan Jae said.

Today, Chan Jae’s Drawings For My Grandchildren Instagram account has over 300,000 followers, and he even sells some of his work in order to fund trips to visit his family and has held exhibitions featuring his work. Some of the topics that he covers in his art include toys that his grandkids love, happy birthday messages, the children grown up in the future and a host of different colourful animals. The art is done in a range of styles, featuring different mediums, and each one comes with a story written by Chan Jae’s wife Marina.

“We’ve heard people feel very inspired by our story. Many people have reconnected to their own passion for drawing and painting and many people share their story about their grandparents and parents. It’s amazing to hear these stories and they encourage us to keep drawing and sharing,” Chan Jae said.

As well as sharing his work on Instagram, Grandpa Chan’s artwork is available on his website.